Norman Lear: 'For Each of Us the World Was Created'
Trusting that each time you throw a stone in the lake, the water level rises.
Excerpted from the commencement address delivered at the USC Graduate School of Communication, May 16, 2003
I'm pleased and honored-and a bit surprised-to have been invited to speak to you today.
Pleased and honored because I assume my role here today is to dispense a bit of wisdom-and surprised that your University thought it a good idea to invite as your commencement speaker the man who brought to our culture Archie Bunker, George Jefferson, Fred Sanford, Maude, and Mary Hartman, arguably five of the least wise characters you've ever met.
This is a day for kvelling. Your commencement, the day of recognition for your great achievements. Your parents, mates, friends, family, and significant others, are all kvelling-and you are kvelling.
Kvell is a Yiddish word-one of those words that might take an entire paragraph in any other language. Kvell means to fill up to overflowing with pride and pleasure-usually over the achievement of someone you love-could be yourself...
A long time ago I came across this ancient saying: A man should have a garment with two pockets. In the first pocket should be a piece of paper on which is written, "I am but dust and ashes." In the second pocket, another piece of paper which reads: "For me the world was created."
Between that yin and yang rests knowing how much you matter. On the one hand you are that proverbial grain of sand on the beach of life-and on the other, when you open your eyes each morning, what's it all here for?
What am I here for? This room, this event, this moment, if not for you.
And if you can truly appreciate the size and scope of the Creator's enterprise here-this planet being one of perhaps a billion planets in our universe, our universe being one among about a billion universes-can you get your fingers close enough to measure the difference between how much any two of us matter. You can't. For each of us the world was created.
But, you may ask, how do I see the results of my mattering in the real world? My grandfather told me when I was about ten, as we stood at the edge of a lake in Moodus, Connecticut, that each time I threw a stone into the water I was raising the level of the lake.
I threw another stone. It wasn't happening. So I threw a rock. I still couldn't see the level of the lake rising, but my grandfather asked me if I saw the ripple.